Council seeks £10m to protect future of Weston's High Street

PUBLISHED: 16:00 08 April 2019

High Street, Weston.    

Picture: MARK ATHERTON

High Street, Weston. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Archant

Weston’s struggling High Street could benefit from a multi-million-pound cash injection, if Government funding is secured.

North Somerset Council has launched a £10million bid to the Future High Streets Fund (FHSF) with hopes of revitalising the Weston’s retail trade amid growing concern for the town centre’s prospects.

The FHSF is a £675million kitty created by the Government which will be distributed across the UK in hope of reversing the decline of town centres.

The council plans to use the funding to make the High Street fit for the future by enhancing the ‘visitor experience’ and lessening the reliance on retail.

Town centres across the country have suffered from changing retail trends in recent years, with more people shopping online.

The biggest blow to business in Weston was delivered in January when Marks & Spencer, undoubtedly the premiere shop in the town centre, announced it will end its century-long stint on the High Street on April 27.

Several other traders have slammed down the shutters for good as footfall continues to decline, but North Somerset believes the cash would help set up a range of initiatives – such as improved transport networks and restoring historic buildings – which will revitalise the area.

The cash could also be used to convert unwanted retail spaces into housing.

Alex Hearn, assistant director for placemaking and growth, said: “Shopping habits are starting to change, as shoppers are looking more towards a visitor experience than a purely retail one.

“As retail starts to move away from a homogenous high street, more variety is starting to emerge.

“We are committed to continuingly seek to invest in Weston’s town centre and hope that this bid forms part of that future investment.”

The council will learn if it has advanced to the next stage of the bidding process in the summer, when more details on its plans will be revealed.

The project will tie in with its town centre regeneration programme, which will see hundreds of homes and changes to the town’s transport network delivered in the coming years.

The council also hopes to net cash from another Government fund, totalling £40million, which could be spent enhancing historic parts of the High Street.

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